Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

From Goodreads: It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn't even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he's able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it's been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn't been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings .... 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When I saw the synopsis for Tom McNeal’s Far Far Away, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of a character being able to hear the voice of Jacob Grimm. Imagine not just being haunted by any ghost, but the ghost of one half of the Brothers Grimm!

It turns out that Jacob Grimm isn’t just a secondary character in Far Far Away, but actually its narrator. So, although I liked learning about Jacob’s life, the fact that a ghost was narrating the story kind of made me feel emotionally detached from Jeremy and his friends.

It didn’t help that the characters had such ridiculous names (e.g. Jeremy Johnson Johnson, Conk Crinklaw etc.) and that the plot was sort of strange. I loved that reading Far Far Away almost feels like reading a fairy tale, but it took so incredibly long for it to become interesting. And even then, I was disappointed because the climax turned out to be very anticlimactic.

Ultimately, it’s hard for me to figure out who I would recommend Far Far Away to as I doubt most of the people I know will have the patience to get through it. The book also seems like it’s intended for MG readers, but the way it’s written feels more appropriate for a YA audience. 

Far Far Away was released by Knopf Books for Young Readers in June 2013. 

Comments About the Cover: I like that the cover has this mysterious and sinister feel to it. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Random House) for free via NetGalley.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

From Goodreads: Cas Lowood, armed with his late father's athame knife, kills ghosts. In Thunder Bay, Anna, forever 16, drips blood on her white dress from a throat slit in 1958, and rips apart anyone who enters her house - except Cas. He makes new friends - high school queen Carmel, jock Will, admiring nerd Thomas and Tom's voodoo grandpa Morfran - to fight this demon. 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: One of the reasons I didn’t read Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood until now is because I’m a scaredy-cat and generally avoid horror movies and novels. I finally decided to muster up the courage to read it though … and want to kick myself for not having read it sooner!

Blake’s descriptive writing makes it so easy to imagine the ghosts that Cas kills. I was especially delighted by the way that the reader meets Anna and the terrifyingly gruesome way that Cas’ father and certain other individuals are killed. I was equally horrified and disgusted, and then had to quickly look around to make sure that there was no vengeful ghost coming after me.

I haven’t read too many novels with male narrators, but Cas came off like a teenage guy to me. I also enjoyed his interactions with Thomas and Carmel. Despite doing his best to isolate himself, I liked how their friendship sort of snuck up on Cas.

I think my only complaint about Anna Dressed in Blood is the romance. Although I understood Cas’ fascination with and pity for Anna, I found the idea of him falling for a ghost a bit forced.

Anna Dressed in Blood was released in September 2011 by Tor Teen. 

Comments About the Cover: I love it! It’s bleak and haunting, and absolutely perfect for the story!

*Sidenote: I love that the setting for Anna Dressed in Blood is Thunder Bay. Can more authors set stories in Canada, please?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Review: Until I Die by Amy Plum

From Goodreads: Kate and Vincent have overcome the odds and at last they are together in Paris, the city of lights and love. As their romance deepens there’s one question they can’t ignore: How are they supposed to be together if Vincent can’t resist sacrificing himself to save others? Although Vincent promises that he’ll do whatever it takes to lead a normal life with Kate, will that mean letting innocent people die? When a new and surprising enemy reveals itself, Kate realizes that even more may be at stake - and that Vincent’s immortality is in jeopardy. In Die for Me, Amy Plum created a captivating paranormal mythology with immortal revenants and a lush Paris setting. Until I Die is poised to thrill readers with more heart-pounding suspense, spellbinding romance, and a cliff-hanger ending that will leave them desperate for the third and final novel in the series. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Over my winter break, I’m going to trying to catch up on some series. One of the series I’ve fallen behind on is Amy Plum’s Revenants series.

I don’t know if it was because I read Die For Me such a long time ago, but I found it a bit hard to get into Until I Die. Once Until I Die captured my interest though, I remembered why I love this series. Besides transporting the reader to Paris, I love the amazing chemistry between all the characters. The revenants’ friendships feel so real, and make me wish that they actually existed so that I could get the opportunity to hang out with them.  

Another highlight of this series is the romance between Kate and Vincent. Although Vincent promised Kate in Die For Me that he would try to not die while rescuing humans, I loved that Kate realizes in Until I Die that sacrificing himself is part of Vincent’s nature a revenant. She’s willing to try and find a solution to make their relationship work long-term, but she doesn’t want it to come at Vincent’s expense. Vincent, though, lost a few points in my book because of his refusal to tell Kate what he was doing as an alternative to dying. Despite his behaviour, I still love Vincent, and consider Kate and Vincent to be one of my favourite YA couples.

A well-written sequel that delves deeper into the mythology of the revenants, Until I Die ends with a shocking cliffhanger! I’ve already started reading If I Should Die to see how the Revenants trilogy is concluded.

Until I Die was released in May 2012 by HarperTeen. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s not a bad cover; I just like Die For Me’s better.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Dorothy Must Die


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 

Title: Dorothy Must Die 
Author: Danielle Paige
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date of Release: April 1, 2014 

Goodreads Description: I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado - taking you with it - you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though - but even that's crumbling. What happened? Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe. My name is Amy Gumm - and I'm the other girl from Kansas. I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. I've been trained to fight. And I have a mission: Remove the Tin Woodman's heart. Steal the Scarecrow's brain. Take the Lion's courage. Then and only then - Dorothy must die! 

Why am I waiting? I love retellings, but haven't read one yet about The Wizard of Oz. This one sounds deliciously violent!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Review: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie. What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides - especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head - and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length. Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes was kind of an interesting read in that I really enjoyed the parts that I liked and hated the parts that I didn’t. I figured a pros and cons list therefore would probably serve best as a review for this book. 

Pros:
  • My favourite thing about The Naturals was the mystery. My suspicions about who the serial killer was turned out to be completely off base, and I was very surprised by who it turned out to be!
  • I’m not sure what this says about me, but I also loved being in the head of the serial killer.
  • I really liked that Barnes kept the characters’ abilities seemingly natural. It’s not hard to imagine an ordinary person just being intuitively great at detecting whether someone is lying, for example, by reading body language and facial expressions. As a result, The Naturals never ventured into the paranormal realm.
  • I thought the secondary characters were pretty interesting. I did like the girls more than the guys though. 
Cons: 
  • Unlike the secondary characters, I never connected with Cassie because she sounded so monotonous throughout the entire novel. 
  • The premise is very far-fetched. For example, I find it hard to believe that an FBI agent would come to a twelve-year-old with questions about serial killers. Also, there's no explanation provided for how the FBI finds these so-called Naturals.  
  • Not only was there a dull love triangle, but it also turned out to be completely pointless because Cassie didn’t choose anybody! 
  • The ending was a bit too open for me. I think The Naturals is a standalone, but the way it ended seems like the author has left the possibility open for a sequel. 
The Naturals was released in November 2013 by Disney-Hyperion. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the cover! I think it’s very eye-catching and unique. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Disney Book Group) for free via NetGalley.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Split Second


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 
 
Title: Split Second
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date of Release: February 11, 2014 
 
Goodreads Description: Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too ... but not without a price. When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that. Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories ... once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school - but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her. As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot ... and a future that could change everything. 
 
Why am I waiting? I really enjoyed Pivot Point, and can't wait to "meet" Trevor again. I'm also curious to see if West can make me change my mind about Laila since I wasn't really a fan of her in Pivot Point. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Mini Reviews: Hooked by Liz Fichera and Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins

From Goodreads: When Native American Fredricka ‘Fred’ Oday is invited to become the only girl on the school’s golf team, she can’t say no. This is an opportunity to shine, win a scholarship and go to university, something no one in her family has done. But Fred’s presence on the team isn’t exactly welcome - especially not to rich golden boy Ryan Berenger, whose best friend was kicked off the team to make a spot for Fred. But there’s no denying that things are happening between the girl with the killer swing and the boy with the killer smile ...


My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I think I was expecting Liz Fichera’s Hooked to have a lot more romance than it did because of the cover. Instead, the plot kind of revolves more around self-discovery than romance. Besides the lacklustre romance, I also found the characters to be very passive and forgettable. Another reason that I was disappointed by Hooked was because the racism encountered by Fred was never dealt with directly. What I did like about Hooked, however, was that it explored Native American culture and featured golf (which I find incredibly boring) – two themes that haven’t gotten much attention in YA. 

Hooked was released in January 2013 by Harlequin Teen. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Harlequin Teen) for free via NetGalley. 
..................................................................................................

From Goodreads: Cami Broussard has her future all figured out. She'll finish her senior year of high school, then go to work full-time as an apprentice chef in her father's French restaurant, alongside her boyfriend, Luke. But then twenty-year-old ex-Marine Julian Wyatt comes to live with Cami's family while recovering from serious injuries. And suddenly Cami finds herself questioning everything she thought she wanted. Julian's all attitude, challenges and intense green-brown eyes. But beneath that abrasive exterior is a man who just might be as lost as Cami's starting to feel. And Cami can't stop thinking about him. Talking to him. Wanting to kiss him. He's got her seriously stirred up. Her senior year has just gotten a lot more complicated ...

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins was a quick read that I’m still feeling ambivalent about (though it did leave me quite hungry). On the one hand, the characters had chemistry; and I really liked that they chose to pursue their own dreams rather than trying to adjust them for each other or anybody else. On the other hand, I found it hard to relate to the characters. I just never connected with Cami and didn’t like how she treated Luke. I also think I would have liked Julian more if Stir Me Up had included his POV as well. Overall, the best part about Stir Me Up for me was the characters considering options other than college after high school since this isn’t something that’s really emphasized in contemporary YA.

Stir Me Up was released by Harlequin Teen in October 2013. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Harlequin Teen) for free via NetGalley.

Excerpt: Covert Assignment (and Giveaway)

Elle is ready for graduation and full-fledged adulthood: no more living like the leftover of her parent’s divorce. She’s about to graduate with her degree in Information Science (the 21st century term for Library Science) and has a ten-year plan as well-designed as any model for analyzing metadata: earn her JD/MBA, enjoy a couple of years as a single professional, then marry her college sweetheart, Adam, and start her own family. Yet Elle feels like she returned to an alternate universe her final semester. There are pictures of Adam with a classmate who must be surgically enhanced, but he insists he wants Elle. CIA recruiters show up on campus, and they aren’t just interested in recruiting Elle for future employment: turns out she’s already working for them since they’re funding her thesis. Hot operative Preston Raddick is tasked to work with her. Preston isn’t just hot: he’s hot for Elle, but is he offering happy ever after or happy for right now? A fling with Preston could be the beginning of a new life plan, which is exciting and scary, especially with espionage thrown in. Elle needs a predictive model to tell her which decisions have the greater likelihood for happiness …

As part of the blog tour for Covert Assignment, I have an excerpt from the book:

“That’s the data itself,” Preston said. “So what is metadata?” 

Elle smiled. Lots of people had that question. “Metadata is the information about the information. For example, players have user names. The easiest way to link a player’s information from the game with the message boards and chat is to gather information that is all from the same user name. But sometimes people use different names. So I also tag information by such markers as time of day of play and posting, IP address, similar game strategies: information about the data. That’s the metadata.”

Preston nodded, brow still furrowed as he thought it through. “So by analyzing the metadata, you can group the players.”

He was hot and smart. Elle was impressed; Marni and Tina still got confused about what, exactly, metadata was, despite her repeated explanations over the years. “How do you like my model now?”

Preston’s eyes seemed to pin her in place with a gaze so penetrating it was as if it stripped away the layers and crystallized her thoughts so he could see them. “Very much,” he said with a sly smile. “She’s been good to me. And it’s the hot, one-of-a-kind model that not even our analysts at Langley can duplicate.”

Elle felt herself blush. So annoying. “Well, I understand gamers.” It was as if invisible lasers were beaming out of his eyes, heating her up. “You know, being in college and everything.” Adam was a gamer, but she didn’t want to bring him up right now.

Preston looked amused at her blushing. “I like how you strut your stuff.”

Of course that had her blushing so much she probably looked like she was suffering a coronary. Elle again laughed while trying to think of something to say. All she could come up with was, “So I take it you’re not an analyst?”

She began typing commands into her computer, and he started reviewing whatever he’d been doing as well. “Clandestine Service,” Preston replied. “I use the data you find in the field.”

Clandestine Service. So he was a spy. A super sexy secret spy. Elle managed to block a giggle from escaping but felt her cheeks get warm. She was working with a real live spy. She could see Preston in a tuxedo, doing the tango with some long-limbed woman before stealing state secrets and zooming off in a sleek sports car.

After a while, Preston said, “So if you can put together the right combination of variables, you can predict what will happen.”

“Within a certain degree of accuracy, yes.”

“So what variables would I need to guarantee dinner with you?”

Covert Assignment can be bought from: [Amazon
 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Guest Post: CJ Lyons

The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now ... or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does.

Today, I'd like to welcome CJ Lyons, the author of Broken to my blog. CJ is here to talk about why she decided to become a writer after working as a pediatric ER doctor and if she ever misses working in medicine. 

I’ve been a storyteller all my life and have always used stories to makes sense of the world around me - it’s my coping mechanism for dealing with chaos. But I never really thought of writing as a career until after I sold my second novel - that’s second novel sold. I’d written my first novel in high school followed by two SF/F novels in medical school. 

Then, halfway through my internship year at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh one of my fellow interns was killed in a very horrendous way. The police apprehended the killer, thanks to good forensic work and cooperation of several agencies. But we interns were still traumatized. Left to mourn and make sense of this terrible thing while simultaneously caring for infants and children entrusted to our care and trying to help families cope. 

For me, writing helped me to heal. I wrote my first crime fiction novel, a romantic thriller called BORROWED TIME (which hit the USA TODAY Bestseller list). Before I'd always written SF/F, but after Jeff died I needed to explore good/evil, justice/truth more than I needed the escapism my previous novels provided me. 

After I had two books under contract and was working hard to finish a third I realized that between medicine and writing I had no time for anything else. Medicine was a lifelong dream come-true, but I thought there was no reason I couldn't have two dream-come-true careers and become a full time writer. So I left. My colleagues thought I was nuts - until after I was gone and things went down hill with HMO's, etc, then they were calling me telling me how smart I was, lol! I missed my patients (still do) but no guilt, writing has given me the chance to touch 100,000's of lives. 

This truth really hits home every time I receive fan mail from people sharing with me how my books have empowered or inspired them to change their lives. I realized that being able to write stories that have that kind of impact is just as powerful as practicing medicine. And that’s when I knew I really “made it” as a writer. 

Thanks for dropping by, CJ!

A bit about CJ (as found on Goodreads): New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart. Winner of the International Thriller Writers coveted Thriller Award, CJ has been called a "master within the genre" (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as "breathtakingly fast-paced" and "riveting" (Publishers Weekly) with "characters with beating hearts and three dimensions" (Newsday).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

From Goodreads: Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan ... But for Cath, being a fan is her life - and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words ... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: After seeing so many positive reviews for Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park and then Fangirl, I figured I should probably give one of her books a try. Since Fangirl is Rowell’s latest novel, I thought I’d start with that.

As someone who has never even been remotely interested in fanfiction, I wondered if I’d be able to relate to Cath. Fortunately, I found that I could. While I’ve never been so socially anxious that I’d resort to hiding in my room and surviving on granola bars for over a month to avoid going to the cafeteria alone, I can understand why Cath would do that because I, myself, tend to feel uncomfortable at large gatherings. Also, though I’ve never written fanfiction, I know what it’s like to be part of an online community and the friendships and drama that can come as a result of that. 

It wasn’t just Cath who was a realistic character; all the secondary characters were as well. Of those, I think Levi deserves a special mention. As the love interest, Rowell could have easily made him a physically handsome guy, but she doesn’t. Instead, Levi is described as too tall and skinny with a receding hairline. I thought that was awesome because YA novels tend to delude you into thinking that you can find guys who look like models on every corner.

Another strength of Fangirl was its focus on different relationships. The book gives equal page time to familial relationships, friendships and school relationships. My favourite of these would probably be Cath’s relationships with her father and her roommate Reagan whereas my least favourite was that of her relationship with her twin Wren, who I disliked.

Besides not liking Wren, I also didn’t enjoy the random excerpts from the Simon Snow series and Cath’s fanfiction at the beginning of each chapter. I thought they were kind of all over the place and not really necessary to the plot.

Fangirl was released in September 2013 by St. Martin’s Press. 

Comments About the Cover: I like its simplicity. It does a great job of showing off the characters of Cath and Levi.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (and Giveaway)

From Goodreads: It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder - would they be better off staying here forever? Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: As part of the blog tour arranged by The Midnight Garden for Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner's These Broken Stars, I’m going to provide five reasons to read their book. Here they are:
  1. The plot: Although I didn’t understand the scientific reasoning behind the major plot twist at the end, I thought the book was very original. I’ve never been a sci-fi fan and previously hadn’t really enjoyed the few books that I read that fell within the genre, but I was entertained by These Broken Stars. 
  2. The writing: Not only was Kaufman and Spooner’s writing descriptive, but they also added an element of suspense. Each chapter, for example, begins with part of a record of Tarver’s interrogation, and you can’t help but wonder what it is that Tarver and Lilac discovered while being stuck on this abandoned planet.
  3. The dual POVs: As long as the voices of the characters remain distinct, I love reading about a situation from multiple perspectives. That’s definitely applicable to These Broken Stars as well. 
  4. The protagonists: Most people might find Tarver easier to like than Lilac, but I had the opposite reaction. I felt sorry for Lilac having to push people away and appearing like a snob. I also realized there was a lot more to her than meets the eye when she hot-wires their escape pod. I was just waiting for her to show her strength and capability to Tarver, who seemed to have this “I know best” mentality that disappears as the novel progresses. 
  5. The slow building romance: Though both Tarver and Lilac are attracted to each other at the beginning of the book, the way Lilac is forced to treat Tarver causes him embarrassment. As a result, both Tarver and Lilac believe that the other person thinks the worst of them even as they start to develop respect for each other. It all makes for some nice sexual tension.
These Broken Stars will be released in December 10, 2013 by Disney Hyperion.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Disney Book Group) for free via NetGalley.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule
Visit each stop for more exclusive These Broken Stars content and additional chances to earn prizes!

Monday, 11/11   The Midnight Garden (World-Building for the Future)
Tuesday, 11/12   Love is Not a Triangle (Author Interview)
Wednesday, 11/13   The Perpetual Page-Turner (Using Technology to Write with a Partner)
Thursday, 11/14   Good Books and Good Wine (Audiobook Sample + Narrator Interview)
Friday, 11/15   The Starry-Eyed Revue (Character Interview with Tarver )
Monday, 11/18   Cuddlebuggery (Author Interview)
Tuesday, 11/19   Books With Bite (Amie & Meg's Favorite Things)
Wednesday, 11/20   Xpresso Reads (Establishing Characters with Role-Playing)
Thursday, 11/21   Great Imaginations (Co-Authoring Books)
Friday, 11/22   Nawanda Files (Lilac's Gorgeous Dress: A Look at These Broken Stars' Cover Art)
Monday 11/25   Promo stops (fun facts about the book!)
Visit the These Broken Stars website for the latest news on the series and follow the authors on Twitter at @AmieKaufman and @MeaganSpooner. You may also sign up for their newsletter as well! These Broken Stars will be available in North America on December 10, 2013.

If you pre-order the book from Malaprop's Bookstore, you can also get a collectible TBS poster autographed by the authors! 
 

Monday, November 11, 2013

It's Been Quiet Here ...

Hey everybody! I just wanted to apologize for my sporadic posts and lack of comments lately. The Master’s Program I got accepted into this year has been a lot more time consuming than I expected. I spend Monday to Thursday mornings teaching, going to classes in the afternoon everyday, and working on assignments and essays on the weekend. As a result, I have very little time for reading and blogging. So when I do read, it’s for fun rather than for review purposes. I also just moved, which meant I spent quite a bit of time packing and now, unpacking. I’ll start posting regularly in December, but have a couple of posts scheduled for the month of November and am keeping my fingers crossed that I can leave some comments during the next few weeks.   

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

From Goodreads: In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds. Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe. As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returns, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I adore fairy tale retellings so when I heard that Stacey Jay’s Of Beast and Beauty was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I knew I had to read it. After reading Of Beast and Beauty though, I’d have to say that it’s a very loose retelling. It reminds me of Everneath in the sense that it uses ideas from a few stories to deliver an entirely new creation. In the case of Of Beast and Beauty, there are elements from Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel.

For me, the best aspect about Of Beast and Beauty was the writing. It was just so poetic and enchanting! I loved that a lot of the imagery relied on the sense of smell and touch – due to Isra’s blindness – because it really made the city of Yuan and the surrounding desert come alive in my mind.

The characters were great as well. I found both Isra and Gem to be equally complex. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that Bo wasn’t as bad as I suspected. Silly me for judging a character in a book about appearances!

Although I thought that Gem’s and Isra’s realizations that they loved each other was a bit sudden, I did like the romance. Gem and Isra had chemistry, and there was a believable transition from the two being enemies to learning that they had things in common.

Another thing I enjoyed about Of Beast and Beauty was the way it conveys its message. Not only does the book teach the reader to look past appearances and to consider the idea of beauty not being the same for each person, but it also distorts their perception of who is Beauty and who is Beast over the course of the story.

A spellbinding novel, Of Beast and Beauty was released in July 2013 by Delacorte Press. 

Comments About the Cover: I like that the cover hints at all the fairy tales that Of Beast and Beauty appears to be inspired by. You can clearly see the tower (Rapunzel) and the rose (Sleeping Beauty), and obviously, the title (Beauty and the Beast).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mini Reviews: Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor and This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

From Goodreads: Anne Dowling practically runs her exclusive academy on New York’s Upper East Side - that is, until she accidentally burns part of it down and gets sent to a prestigious boarding school outside of Boston. Determined to make it back to New York, Anne couldn't care less about making friends at the preppy Wheatley School. That is, until her roommate Isabella’s body is found in the woods behind the school. When everyone else is oddly silent, Anne becomes determined to uncover the truth no matter how many rules she has to break to do it. With the help of Isabella’s twin brother Anthony, and a cute classmate named Brent, Anne discovers that Isabella wasn’t quite the innocent nerdy girl she pretended to be. But someone will do anything to stop Anne’s snooping in this fast-paced, unputdownable read—even if it means framing her for Isabella’s murder.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor was an average read. While I liked that the mystery was hard to solve, I couldn’t really understand why Anne was so invested in trying to solve her roommate’s murder herself since she only knew her roommate for a week or so. Although I found Anne initially kind of spoiled and annoying, she slowly grew on me. The same can’t be said for the secondary characters in Prep School Confidential. The love interests were dull, and everybody else wasn’t developed enough for me to care about them.

Prep School Confidential was released in July 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (St. Martin's Press) for free via NetGalley. 
..................................................................................................

From Goodreads: When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds. Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Like Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I feel as if her novel This Is What Happy Looks Like is missing something that will make it go from a cute, decent read to an amazing one. That being said, I think I enjoyed This Is What Happy Looks Like just a bit more because the dual narrations enabled me to get to know both Graham and Ellie equally well. I would have liked this story even more though if I had been able to see Graham and Ellie’s friendship develop over email. 

This is What Happy Looks Like was released by Poppy in April 2013.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Review: Losing Lila by Sarah Alderson

From Goodreads: Alex and Lila are on the run, desperately trying to stay one step ahead of the Unit, which is somehow tracking their every move. While Alex is determined to keep Lila safe and her ability secret at any cost, Lila's only thought is of finding a way back to California so she can rescue her brother and mother from the military base where they're being held. Struggling to control both her growing power and her deepening feelings for Alex, Lila decides the time has finally come to stop running and start fighting. Together with Alex, Demos, and the others she's come to think of as family, Lila plans not only to save her brother and mum, but also to completely destroy the Unit and everything it stands for. But the plan requires Lila to return to California alone, and to make friends with the enemy - and in doing so, she risks losing everything: Alex, her family … even her life. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Losing Lila by Sarah Alderson begins a week after the end of Hunting Lila. When the novel starts, Lila and Alex are on the run from the Unit. Jack is in a coma after having been shot. Demos’ original group has splintered and those that remain with him are trying to divide the Unit’s forces by having the Unit chase them rather than Alex and Lila. Readers dive headfirst into the action, and it’s awesome!

As a character, Lila is definitely more mature in this novel. She’s still impulsive, but her impulsivity is reined in. It’s also evident throughout the course of Losing Lila that she has become more comfortable with her power and is able to control it better. As well, I really liked that she was able to stand up for herself, especially when it came to decisions made by Alex (who shows some emotional vulnerability in this installment) or Jack as those two tended to make the decisions for her in Hunting Lila.

I continue loving the sibling dynamic between Lila and Jack! Their interactions never fail to amuse me, and I love how they know exactly what buttons to push to annoy the other person. If I could have an older brother from a YA novel, Jack would probably be on the top of my list (although his protective streak might get old after a while)!

With the return of beloved secondary characters like Nate and Suki, Losing Lila is as enjoyable as Hunting Lila. While Hunting Lila may have been more fun, Losing Lila balances that out by having more emotional depth.

Losing Lila was released in August 2012 by Simon & Schuster UK. 

Comments About the Cover: I’m not really a fan of the cover. I liked Hunting Lila’s cover better.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Review: My Ex From Hell by Tellulah Darling (and Giveaway)

From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Sophie Bloom wishes she’d been taught the following: a) Bad boy’s presence (TrOuBlE) + teen girl’s brain (DraMa) = TrAuMa (Highly unstable and very volatile.) b) The Genus Greekulum Godissimus is notable for three traits: 1) awesome abilities, 2) grudges, and 3) hook-ups, break-ups, and in-fighting that puts cable to shame. Prior to the Halloween dance, Sophie figures her worst problems involve adolescent theatrics, bitchy teen yoga girls, and being on probation at her boarding school for mouthy behaviour. Then she meets bad boy Kai and gets the kiss that rocks her world. Literally. This breath stealing lip lock reawakens Sophie’s true identity: Persephone, Goddess of Spring. She’s key to saving humanity in the war between the Underworld and Olympus, target numero uno of Hades and Zeus, and totally screwed. Plus there’s also the little issue that Sophie’s last memory as Persephone was just before someone tried to murder her. Big picture: master her powers, get her memories back, defeat Persephone’s would be assassin, and save the world. Also, sneak into the Underworld to retrieve stolen property, battle the minions of Hades and Zeus, outwit psycho nymphs, slay a dragon, rescue a classmate, keep from getting her butt expelled from the one place designed to keep her safe … and stop kissing Kai, Prince of the Underworld. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: My Ex From Hell by Tellulah Darling was a humorous blend of contemporary and Greek mythology. Even better, the characters were likeable and there was a strong display of friendship throughout the novel.

I think Darling did a good job of creating strong female characters. I found Sophie to be snarky and amusing, and liked that Hannah was a proud geek. Although I don’t understand why there was such a focus on Hannah’s beauty (since it wasn’t really important to the story), it’s nice that Darling made an attempt to show that beauty and brains aren’t mutually exclusive.

Another thing I liked was how obvious it was that Sophie and Hannah cared about each other. They had their very own rituals as best friends, and didn’t keep secrets from the other person. For example, when Sophie found out that she was a goddess stuck in a mortal body, she told Hannah right away. At no point was Hannah kept in the dark simply for being a human. In fact, Sophie even urges Hannah to accompany her when she goes to kill Delphyne, the dragon appointed to guard the oracle of Delphi, because she knew it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for Hannah to see a dragon.

Though it could have been a tad more serious at certain points, My Ex From Hell was a fun read overall. 

My Ex From Hell was released in April 2013 by Te Da Media. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s a bit too plain looking for me. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the author for free via Xpresso Book Tours.  

 
original image from thegate.ca

My Ex From Hell can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [Book Depository] 
..................................................................................................

If you're interested in reading My Ex From Hell, you can enter to win an e-copy by filling out the form below.

To enter: 
  1. You must be a GFC follower. 
  2. You must be over the age of 13. 
  3. This giveaway is open internationally and will end on Thursday, October 17 at 11:59 PM. 
  4. Make sure your entries are tallied correctly!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mini Reviews: Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris and Tied by Laney McMann

From Goodreads: Four months after Ben disappeared through the portal to his home universe, Janelle believes she’ll never see him again. Her world is still devastated, but life is finally starting to resume some kind of normalcy. Until Interverse Agent Taylor Barclay shows up. Somebody from an alternate universe is running a human trafficking ring, kidnapping people and selling them on different Earths - and Ben is the prime suspect. Now his family has been imprisoned and will be executed if Ben doesn’t turn himself over within five days. And when Janelle learns that someone she cares about - someone from her own world - has become one of the missing, she knows that she has to help Barclay, regardless of the danger. Now Janelle has five days to track down the real culprit. Five days to locate the missing people before they’re lost forever. Five days to reunite with the boy who stole her heart. But as the clues begin to add up, Janelle realizes that she’s in way over her head - and that she may not have known Ben as well as she thought. Can she uncover the truth before everyone she cares about is killed? 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The sequel to Unraveling, Elizabeth Norris’ Unbreakable was even better than its predecessor! Not only did it have all the elements of Unraveling that I liked (e.g. tight pacing, tons of action, great character development, etc.), but I was very pleased that we got to explore some of the other universes as well. I also enjoyed the romance a lot more in this book. Usually when there’s trouble between couples in a YA novel, it’s because there’s another love interest or a superficial problem that's introduced. I loved that the romantic tension in Unbreakable came instead as a result of Ben and Janelle’s individual growth as characters while apart. They still love each other, but have done some questionable things in the name of love and so have to try to reconcile the consequences of their actions with their motives.

Unbreakable was released by Balzer + Bray in April 2013. 
..................................................................................................

From Goodreads: Normal people don't believe their nightmares stalk them. They don’t fall in love with boys who don’t exist, either. Seventeen-year-old Layla Labelle, though, is far from normal. Her delusions walk the earth. Her hallucinations hunt her, and her skin heats to a burn every time her anger flares. Or is that all in her head? Layla doesn't know what to believe any more because if none of that’s true, Max MacLarnon must be an illusion, and her heart must still be broken. No matter how much she wants to believe Max is real, doing so would mean everything else is, too. How, then, is that possible? The answers lie in an age-old legend the supernatural aren’t prepared to reveal, and with a curse that could tear Layla and Max apart forever - if it doesn’t kill them both first.  

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: A huge reason why I decided to read Laney McMann’s Tied was because I don’t know much about Irish mythology. Unfortunately, I found Tied to be a rather disappointing read. The Irish mythology that I was so looking forward to just wasn’t incorporated into the plot as cohesively as I was expecting, and most of the information was typically provided in info dumps. The entire book was pretty much Layla discovering she hadn’t been told something, finding out more about it (for example, researching and looking at a website in one case), freaking out, and then having the cycle repeat.

My reading experience probably could have been improved if I had connected with the characters. Sadly, I didn’t because they weren’t very well developed.

Tied was released in September 2013 by J. Taylor Publishing. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (J. Taylor Publishing) for free.
ag8网址